Johannesburg - Hailing from a dusty township in Pretoria, Phumlani Ntloko has developed a mobile Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machine to test prototypes - which can also do 3D printing - at less than a third of the cost of an imported unit.
Phumlani, who has no formal training, says that his CNC machine was created out of frustration brewed from the high cost of testing prototype circuit boards and the arduous process involved in tests (testing a prototype circuit in any unit from a mobile phone to a computer can cost up to R200 000).
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“We’ve completely simplified the process. We wanted to create a CNC machine that everyone can use,” Ntloko said.
The technology is so user friendly that Ntloko says a person with no knowledge of computing can have a basic understanding of how to test a prototype using his mobile CNC machine in less than a day.
But the machine’s simplicity is just one of its benefits. Ntloko and his company, Adia Engineering Systems, have managed to reduce the cost of a CNC machine from the R150 000-R200 000 price tag for an imported unit to just over R60 000.
After developing the first mobile CNC machine prototype, Ntloko found there was a massive demand for testing the viability of prototypes within communities.
“Our system works with the developer inputting his prototype system into a computer which can print the tracks for a circuit board and test the board as a prototype,” Ntloko said.
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Ntloko’s idea caught the attention of the Grassroots Innovation Programme, an initiative of the Department of Science and Techonology and implemented by the Technology Localization Implementation Unit of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).
The programme has now incubated Ntloko's company to produce more CNC machines.
“So many people need a CNC machine to test their prototypes, there’s a massive demand for it,” Ntloko said.